When it's cold outside and the rain is lashing against the windows we tend to look to uncomplicated comfort foods, certain dishes that can be easily made from simple ingredients to warm our souls and sooth our cold bones. If you are looking for a little comfort during the long winter nights, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of steaming hot soup.

For most of us, soup represents nourishment, healing and comfort and the secret to good soup is to make the perfect stock. 
Stocks need a little care and attention but if you follow these basic rules, you’ll be rewarded with clear-looking, healthy broths with flavours that are true and clean. For a simple chicken stock, place 2 clean chicken carcasses in a large saucepan and cover them with cold water. Bring the stock slowly to the boil and skim the impurities and fat from the surface as they rise to the top. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Add 2 small diced onions, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 sliced carrots, 1 chopped leek, 1 bay leaf, a celery stick and 2 sprigs of fresh thyme. Cook slowly for 2-3 hours and add a little cold water from time-to-time. Continue to degrease and remove all the impurities as
they rise to the surface, then pass through a fine sieve. Remember if you make fresh stocks you can also freeze them down to use later if you have any leftover.

The great French Chef Auguste Escoffier said, “Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite", while Beethoven claimed” Only the pure of heart can make good soup".  One thing is for sure, freshly made soups rarely get the attention they deserve and are often inexplicably overlooked by most chefs these day’s. That’s a real shame as soup can be extremely versatile and tasty as well an endless source of nutrition.
Cream of chicken soup with herbed dumplings

Prep time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins

Ingredients serves 6

2 chicken legs, skinned
2 onions
2 celery stalks
2 leeks
2 potatoes
1.2l chicken stock
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
250ml cream

Put the chicken legs in a large saucepan, cover with the chicken stock and bring slowly to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and remove any traces of fat and scum from the surface. Add the vegetables, thyme and bay leaves and simmer for 35-40 minutes. Add a little cold water if necessary. Remove the chicken legs, bay leaves and thyme from the soup; add the cream and blend to a smooth puree.
Season to taste. Serve by chopping the meat from the chicken legs and adding to the soup or garnish with herbed chicken dumplings.

Herbed chicken dumplings:
1 chicken breast, skinned & diced
1 egg
3 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp chopped parsley

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to form a course paste. Do not over work. Using wet hands, form small round dumplings and fry them in a little olive until golden brown on all sides and cooked through.


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